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Hi Affinity/Serif team,

 

I would just share my opinion about software development/release and how Serif fits into this:

 

I am myself a software developer/supporter (for a professional GIS software) and of course user of multiple applications. During the last decade we have seen a shift in how companies and open source software copes with user demands, bug fixes, releases and support. For examples many companies now release far more often since tooling and automated tests ease the release process. But tooling aside, an important aspect is usually the attitude of the company's leaders or the people in charge for the backlog and the release pipeline.

 

For me a software is ideal if ...

  • it allows me to get the things done I need to do. (In other words it has all the must have features.)
  • it allows me to get these things done easily (for example not needing five steps for a task that requires just one step in another software, or for example not needing to set the same settings over and over again)
  • it is frustration free (usually meaning no crashes, no data loss, no artifacts in created images and not having major bugs in the functions I use)
  • it is intuitive, meaning functions are where the user expects them and work as the user expects them (instead of the user having to read a manual first before being able to work with the software) and the software follows OS dependent usability best practices (for design, shortcuts, save as dialogs etc.)
  • offers a useful help which is also available offline (plus optional video tutorials)

I should add that all aspects are equally important to me. Often fixing a bug is worth more than adding the umpteenth filter.

I have seen other companies like Lytro adding more and more (hardly needed) features to their software without being able to fix bugs (which made the software crash predictably) or without adding absolutely basic features everyone just expected to exist (like exported JPG having metadata!). And I have seen these companies abandon that software at the end - or me switching to another one.

 

But there's more to it. Today it is best practice for a company to ...

  • release multiple bug fix releases (or even minor feature releases) over the year instead of the one fixed-date release.
  • not require the customers to purchase a new release just to get a non-working function fixed (by fixing bugs only for the next release)
  • have a transparent, public means of feature/bug tracking (be it a public bug tracker or a forum) and listens to their customer's most pressing needs
  • publish the list of new features and fixed bugs alike for every release It's not a shame to have bugs in the software, but imho it's a shame not to admit this.
  • not ignore hundreds of users voting or giving feedback that a certain improvement or bug fix is very important by declaring the issue "won't fix", basically telling them "We have a different opinion and we don't care about your's."
  • have active supporters in its forums, giving help and feedback for questions, reported bugs and feature suggestions alike, especially if users cannot help each other.
  • not misuse the community as only alpha/beta testers.
  • not release a not-yet-ready software out into the wild just because someone wants the software release in time for some software trade show or event. (I personally favour the idea of a fixed required release quality.)

I am happy to see that Serif is on a good way concerning many of these aspects:

  • The feedback process is transparent.
  • There is active feedback on forum entries and bug reports by Affinity employees.
  • There's public discussion with Serif about new features, bugs and workarounds
  • There are public betas for those who want to do testing and stable releases for those who cannot afford loosing data or time in their job.
  • There are multiple releases over the year to ensure users soon profit from bug fixes.
  • There are useful help texts and easy-to-follow video tutorials for the beginners showing multiple functions in context.

As such I can applaud Serif for many good decisions. There are other aspects I cannot really judge given I am rather new to the community. Things which imho need some improvement are:

  • Affinity Photo 1.5.1 (Windows) was still too buggy for my liking. Within a few days of testing I found almost a dozen bugs from major (e.g. wrong RAW histogram, image artefacts) to minor (e.g. wrong translations). At least the software was rather stable on my PC. Of course I only checked a subset of its functions ...
  • Although overall the German translation of Affinity Photo is good, I noted some translations which showed that the person doing the translation had no idea of the context in which the word or phrase is used. That's why I never warmed up with the idea of "outsourcing" translations to cheap translators who are not familiar with the software and do not know where in the UI their texts will appear.

Last but not least let me compare my experience with Adobe Photoshop/Premiere Elements for above aspects:

  • Their software is stable for me too.
  • There are major usability glitches (like the entered output file name getting overridden by a default once an export setting is changed in Premiere E.). However other things work better, like Photoshop E. remembering the last RAW and export settings used for an image, so it's easy to do further adjustments later.
  • The translation is partly horrible. (The help texts are generally fine, but some labels in the software clearly show the translators had no idea what the function or the slider really does.)
  • There is a bug/feature forum but I did not receive any feedback (like at least "Thanks for reporting.") for any of the bugs or improvements I reported. Maybe I wasted my time ...
  • There has not been a bug fix release for months, so all bugs still exist and likely will exist until the next major version ... and possibly longer if no official cares to read the bug reports or forward them to the dev team.

Basically that's why I hope and believe Serif can do these things better, and if they do then I expect them to get a growing happy user base.

 

Matthias.

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